Communicating Change, Even at the Bus Stop

Asian girl running late for busBy Kathleen Federici, MEd.

After four years. the location of my son’s elementary school bus stop was changed from a four-minute walk around the block to a 12-minute walk two streets away. And to make it more stressful, our beloved drop-off and pick-up bus driver was changed and we now have two different bus drivers: One for pickup and another for drop off. We found this out through a simple postcard in the mail, which created stress for everyone in our house.

You see, if we are running late we can no longer watch the bus drive past our house, jump the creek and run through the woods in my backyard as a shortcut to get to the bus stop and still be on time. There were many more thoughts that went not only through my mind but also my son’s thanks to this simple change.

It makes me think about how organizations communicate what seems like simple change. Even simple changes can create stress for those on the receiving end. The school district most likely made this change to streamline the bus route. But for us, it involves forming new relationships with two different bus drivers and two new sets of kids on the bus, changing our morning routine, getting new cell phone numbers for our bus drivers, and re-conditioning my dog that he will no longer get a treat every morning from the driver we knew. Pavlov even comes into play with this simple change—seriously, my dog cries with happiness when he sees a yellow school bus.

I know there is no absolute best way to communicate change, but when you need to communicate a change to customers or employees, it might be helpful to explain why the change must happen, no matter how simple it is. Include customers and employees as soon as possible, be consistent with your messaging through all channels, and tailor the message to the receiver’s perspective.

With that, I have to go before we miss the bus.

Kathleen Federici, MEd, is IPI’s director of professional development.

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